Army recruits crawling through mud

Training to be a soldier is not an easy thing to do, and militaries across the world put their recruits through some rigorous training, particularly for special forces units. While the training is physically and mentally demanding, these armies have produced some of the top special force units in the world and the most lethal soldiers.

Read on to find out which are the toughest boot camps around the world for getting their soldiers into the best shape possible and what their training consists of – be glad it isn’t a requirement for airsoft!

Taiwan Marine Corps

Taiwanese marines have a gruelling ten-week intensive training program to finish to qualify, but the hardest part comes in the last week, and it’s called the Road to Heaven. Trainees have to complete a crawl over a 50-metre pathway of jagged stones. They start with a fall from standing to plank position, and there are ten stopping points where the recruits stop to perform an exercise. The worst part? If the instructor is not satisfied, they can order recruits to start again from the beginning. However, family and friends are encouraged to attend, watch and cheer on. In the end, they earn their place among Taiwan’s most elite soldiers.

France’s Commando Hubert

The Commandos Marine are the Special Operation Forces of the French Navy, and the most elite unit is Commando Hubert. The unit specialises in counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, combat diving and combat swimming. Training is said to be one of the toughest amongst NATO country special forces. Basic training lasts 20 weeks, and any mistake will disqualify candidates from the training programme as all activities are timed and scored. The hardest part of training for Commando Hubert comes in the second phase, where recruits plan and execute simulated raids on ships, swim and dive in complete darkness and plant explosives without being caught.

Marines in a boat training exercise

Guatemala Kaibiles

The Kaibiles are a special operations wing of the Armed Forces of Guatemala who specialise in jungle warfare and counter-insurgency. Even entering into the program is hard with physical and psychological tests required. Training is offered twice a year and lasts two months, and only 64 participants are allowed with no one older than 28. Commandos are trained in a range of areas such as guerrilla warfare, military and counter-intelligence. The training is physically and mentally demanding taking place day and night. The right to sleep and eat has to be earned. The commandos are trained to be killing machines, and the last stage involves killing and eating “anything that moves” including insects, executing annihilation attacks, patrolling thorn-filled brush in underwear, roll around in thorns and spending two days in water without sleeping. The stage is called “El Infierno” or “Hell”. Sounds about right!

Belarus Special Forces

Belarus is known as “Europe’s last dictatorship”, and there are several remnants of the Soviet period left, which includes its military and the discipline it enforces. Soldiers go through rigorous training to achieve the rank of Red Beret, the most elite of the Special Forces. There are physical tests, such as live fights and completing obstacle courses surrounded in smoke and fire, often with few or no safety measures in place, and soldiers must also carry out endurance tests such as holding formation in freezing weather. The country is mainly Orthodox Christian, and soldiers take part in religious observances as part of their training, such as jumping in freezing lakes or breaking flaming concrete blocks with their head.

Soldier firing weapons at targets

North Korean Special Operation Force

Being a dictatorship country, it’s no surprise North Korea has an intense basic training for their special forces, and it is likely the largest in the world with around 200,000 soldiers. Recruits are trained to perform political, military and psychological operations for their country. Though there might be a lack in technological advancement, there is some insane training required, from waking at 5am to punch trees wrapped in rope to punching ragged tin cans. Soldiers are also trained in replica buildings on how to seize or destroy targets in South Korea. Some of the North Korean SOF was seen at the 2017 Pyongyang parade, where six months training went into ten minutes of the show.

South African Special Forces Brigade

The South African Special Forces Brigade, also known as the Recces are the country’s special operations unit and elite counter-insurgency. They are considered to have one of the most arduous training and selection processes, known as the Ultimate Challenge. A soldier must meet high requirements even to be considered and face several tests; soldiers showing mental instability are ejected from the course. Physical tests, for just pre-selection, include 50 push-ups, 67 sit-ups in two minutes, 175-metre fireman’s lift in 65 seconds, 5k run in 24 minutes and a rope climb with 40 six-metre shuttle runs within 95 seconds. What follows is the special forces “Selection”, where candidates undergo a series of demanding situations over a week. Candidates are not allowed to sleep, eat or rest; only a few who begin the Selection pass it, and in some years not one person passes. If a recruit makes it to the special forces training there is airborne, land-based and marine training, so soldiers have an all-around skill set.

Army recruit climbing a wooden ladder

Shayetet 13

Israel takes their military seriously, and mandatory service in the Israeli Defence Forces exists for all non-Arab citizens. Shayetet 13 is a unit of the Israeli Navy and specialised in counter-terrorism, sea to land incursions, hostage rescue and maritime intelligence. They are one of the most respected and best of the world’s special forces, often compared to the US Navy SEALS. Training for Shayetet 13 recruits lasts 20 months and is one of the toughest in the Israeli military. The training program has five stages, starting with the selection process where there are extensive medical tests, physical and mental exercises. If you pass the selection, the next six months is basic and advanced infantry training, followed by the preparation phase which includes weapons training, parachute training, forced marches, long swims and basics of maritime warfare. The fourth stage is focused on combat diving, and the final step is the most rigorous, lasting about a year, with most dropouts leaving at this phase. Training at this point involves sniper training, advanced diving, underwater demolition and counter-terrorism operations. Throughout training, cadets also learn Krav Maga.


Though the British Special Air Service and Special Boat Service might not have the crazy tasks and challenges mentioned above, it is nevertheless very tough. The first phase of selection is known as endurance, where candidates carry heavy bags on long timed hikes over hills, navigating through checkpoints. The second phase is jungle training, taking candidates to Belize, Brunei or Malaysia, behind “enemy lines”, living on rations and weeds out those who can’t handle the discipline required to keep themselves or their kit in a good condition. The third stage includes an escape and evasion task where recruits are given brief instructions on techniques, given World War II coats and minimal survival equipment and have to evade capture in the countryside. Following this is Tactical Questioning lasting 36 hours where candidates must resist interrogation. The SAS and SBS may take on 200 candidates and only 30 will last to the end.

Marines training by jumping out of a helicopter

Do you think you could last through these training programs, or would you rather stick to the much more enjoyable skirmishes of airsoft? If you fancy stepping up your airsoft games with some military basics, it can add something special to an airsoft game and make sure you have some top-quality military airsoft rifles to your weapons cache!